Let me just start off by saying that it’s been a crazy summer. I learned and did way more than I ever imagined in a 14 week span. I started my summer portion of my internship down in Ukiah, Oregon on the North Fork John Day District. In the beginning I was getting introduced to the Umatilla pack team which consists of four horses and three mules. We went out on a few rides to get those muscles back into the swing of things. Anyone who’s been on a horse for a long amount of time knows what muscles I’m talking about. It is not recommended to go on a six hour ride right off the bat, but that’s what I did – and man was I sore. I didn’t realize how old my body has gotten in the past couple years! As if the six hour ride wasn’t enough we went out on a five hour ride the very next day. There wasn’t a place below my waist that wasn’t hurting. Luckily, I was told about a hot springs not far out of town that was the cure for my aches and pains and I was ready to go afterwards. Those hot springs certainly have healing powers.
After my initial week, we went out with the horses to pack out the wilderness crew from their current spike. A spike is a period of time out in the wilderness which typically consisted of eight days. The crew was about four miles in and to avoid them from not having enough supplies the pack team would be used to take out most of their gear and tools. Camping out in the wilderness for eight day may seem fun for most people but many don’t realize just how much is required when you add 10+ hours of strenuous work throughout the day with heavy hand tools (no chainsaws or anything mechanic allowed). We had to bring out enough food for ourselves for eight days (24 meals), tents, sleeping bags, along with two cross cuts, three pulaskis, tread work tools, trimmers, wedges, hard hats, etc. Hence the mules. They were such a blessing!
My first spike was certainly a learning experience. First of all, I have never been camping for more than three nights prior to this summer. Secondly, that camping experience was not in the wilderness. Thirdly, that was over seven years ago! Of course I have been camping since but it was at designated campsites (or near them…). I was a little scared due to the uncertainty of what was going to take place in literally the middle of nowhere. The first week, as usual, I took way to much stuff – yet not enough stuff. I brought the wrong stuff. I was fine on food and we had a water filter so that was fine and my shelter was good too, but as for clothing and extras, waaay too much. By my last spike I brought out two pairs of pants and three shirts along with the necessary unmentionables and I think it knocked about 10-15lbs off my packing weight. My first trip out I was excited, yet nervous. Then by the last trip I was excited and confident that I can survive in the wilderness for eight days just by packing what I need and not what I want.
Every day we were out we would cut trees that have fallen across the trail in the past year. Some were large, some were small, but most were medium size. Once I joined the team we had four people and after I learned what all needed to be done and how to do it, we were able to go in two groups and tackle twice as many trees. It was nice. I worked with some great people this summer. There were highs and there were lows, but overall I will look back on this summer as an unforgettable and wonderful experience.
Now, with less than 10 weeks remaining in this internship I am looking forward, as I have been these past few months, as to what’s next for me. My husband has started a job this summer in Elko, Nevada with the BLM as a fire fighter and it’s a permanent yearlong job. He has worked really hard for this opportunity and has been really enjoying it. As much as I would love to stay here in Pendleton with the opportunities that are here for me, I know there are many opportunities for me down there to continue a job in natural resources. I am currently seeking out several positions that vary from wildlife biologist to a Pathways internship that will allow me to work with the BLM and finish my degree. It’s exciting! It’s amazing what has led me up to this point. At our last training, we were talking about our sense of place and something that has been sticking with me these past few months has been a quote by the wonderful and mostly harmless author, Douglas Adams. He once said “I rarely end up where I was intending to go but often I end up somewhere I needed to be”. This is certainly true and I know it will continue to be true for my near and far future. Thanks for reading! 🙂